US: ‘Major’ Islamic State media ‘hub’ destroyed in Nangarhar, Afghanistan

US Forces-Afghanistan announced yesterday that Jawed Khan, a “senior director of media production” for the Islamic State’s Wilayah Khorasan (ISIS-K), “was killed in an airstrike in Achin, Nangarhar Province on June 3.”

“His death will disrupt the ISIS-K network, degrade their recruitment process and hinder their attempts to conduct international operations,” Gen. John Nicholson, the commander of US Forces-Afghanistan, said in a statement.

The US military describes Khan as “an experienced media production director and skilled propagandist” who served as a “senior” commander in Wilayah Khorasan (or Khorasan “province”).

“This strike also destroyed a major ISIS-K media production hub and disrupts their connections to ISIS main in Syria,” the US military said.

This isn’t the first time that the US has pointed to “connections” between the Islamic State’s main organization and its “province” in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

“We do see a connection,” Gen. Nicholson said in December. The group’s first leader, Hafiz Saeed Khan, “went through the application process” set up by the so-called caliphate for establishing new branches. Nicholson added that the Islamic State has provided “support” to its men in the Khorasan in the form of “advice,” “publicity,” and “some financial support.”

Achin has witnessed intense fighting over the past several months. In April, the US dropped the “MOAB,” the GBU-43 Massive Ordnance Air Blast (also known as the “mother of all bombs”) in Achin. Afghan officials initially said that the explosion caused 36 Islamic State casualties, but subsequently increased their estimate to 94 killed, according to the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR). The Islamic State has claimed that there were no casualties from the bombing.

Also in April, three American service members were killed during counterterrorism raids in Nangarhar.

US Forces-Afghanistan says there “were no civilian casualties associated with” the strike that killed Khan on June 3.

Wilayah Khorasan has lost its first two emirs since the US launched a specific counterterrorism mission against the group last year.

Hafiz Saeed Khan was a former commander in the Pakistani Taliban (Tehrik-e Taliban, or TTP) who announced his allegiance to Abu Bakr al Baghdadi in late 2014. Khan was killed in a US airstrike in the Achin district in July 2016.

Khan’s successor, Abdul Hasib, was killed during a raid in Nangarhar on Apr. 27. Hasib had “directed” the Mar. 8 assault on the Sardar Mohammad Daud Khan Hospital in Kabul.

Despite losing ground in Nangarhar, Wilayah Khorasan continues to fight US-led forces, as well as its jihadist rivals in the Taliban. The group is also still able to launch large-scale attacks in Kabul and elsewhere. Some of its most deadly bombings have deliberately targeted Shiite civilians in the Afghan capital.

[For more on the Islamic State’s Wilayah Khorasan, see FDD’s Long War Journal reports: 2 American service members killed fighting Islamic State in eastern Afghanistan and Islamic State continues to target Shiite civilians in Kabul.]

Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for FDD's Long War Journal.

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